New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Germany and France, were forced to reimpose travel restrictions after the United Kingdom (UK) reported a new strain of coronavirus and warned that it is "out of control".

The UK, which has reimposed lockdown in London and other parts of the country, has said that the new strain of the COVID-19 infection is "growing faster than ever", forcing the government to reimpose restrictions as a precautionary measure in the country.

"It is really too early to tell… but from what we see so far it is growing very quickly, it is growing faster than (a previous variant) ever grew, but it is important to keep an eye on this," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said during a press conference.

What is the new strain of coronavirus?

As per experts, the new strain of Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, spreads 70 per cent faster than other strains of the infection. They believe that nearly 60 per cent of the new cases in London are driven by this new variant of the novel coronavirus.

The UK officials have warned the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the new strain which is now analysing the available data about it to find out more about it.

When was the new strain of COVID-19 discovered?

The British authorities had first warned about the new strain of COVID-19 in September this year. However, it had said that it is mostly confined to London and nearby areas. Meanwhile, other countries have still not reported cases of this variant. Though Italy on Sunday said that one of the citizens, who had recently travelled to the UK, has tested positive for this new strain.

How deadly can this new variant be?

Currently, there is no data to prove that this new variant of COVID-19 will be deadlier than other strains of the infection. However, medical experts suggest that if "the new variant was going to have a big impact on disease severity, we would have seen that by now".

"Hospital cases as a proportion of numbers of infections would have either rocketed or dropped dramatically. Neither has happened, so we can conclude that the impact on numbers of severe cases is likely to be modest: slightly more or slightly fewer," The Guardian quoted Ewan Birney, deputy director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, as saying.

Will a vaccine work against the new strain of COVID-19?

Though WHO has not issued a statement over this, medical experts have said that a vaccine will probably work against the new strain of COVID-19.

"So there is every reason to think that the vaccines will still work against this new strain, though obviously, that needs to be tested thoroughly," Birney said, as reported by The Guardian.

What steps countries are taking to control this new variant of COVID-19?

Several nations -- Austria, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, Turkey, Israel and the Netherlands -- have restricted the flights from the UK. Saudi Arabia has also halted international flights and suspended entry through its land and seaports for at least a week.

Neighbouring Kuwait also announced a ban on Sunday on passenger flights from Britain over the new strain of the virus.

The United States of America (USA) has said that it is "carefully" monitoring the situation in the UK, noting that a ban on Britain travel was not currently in the cards.

"This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity," AFP quoted a US official as saying.

What steps India has taken so far?

The Union Health Ministry will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the new COVID-19 strain found in the UK. Government officials have informed that representatives of the WHO will likely attend the meeting too.

"As far as India is concerned, there is no major change or mutation in the Covid strain yet. We are studying strains of coronavirus very closely in our country. But, yes, we also keep a track of whatever is happening in the world related to the variants of COVID-19 strain," news agency ANI quoted an official as saying.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma